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TAAP Class 2016: Ryne Nardecchia, Performance Apprentice

August 19, 2016

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I never would have imagined how quickly this summer would come to an end.  It feels like only yesterday that I was getting off of the smallest plane known to man after landing in between literal mountains, stepping into a place that felt much like heaven (with a dose of altitude sickness!). Hours later, I was thrown into a group of people who I knew nothing about at first, but very shortly formed into friendships with that I will want to keep with me forever. This summer was one of my first professional theatre experiences and was everything I could have ever wished for.

I was a performance apprentice in the 2016 Theatre Aspen summer season and had the chance to be a part of two shows; Mamma Mia! and Dear Edwina. The first week we arrived was spent assimilating to the town of Aspen. We were given time to explore, hike, raft, and get basic bearings of where the grocery store and pharmacy was located. This was especially valuable to me because I was able to form closer relationships with the other apprentices before jumping into rehearsals for one of my first summer stock experiences, something that gave me a healthy dose of fear in the back of my mind.

A week later, rehearsals began for Mamma Mia! Not fully understanding the way the bus systems around town worked, the entire apprentice class arrived 5 minutes late… not a great start on our part. The beautiful thing is that the situation was handled as if we were professionals. It was recommended strongly that it not happen again, and then we moved on. (Word to the wise: figure out public transit ahead of time!) We were all scared witless by the situation, so naturally, we were twenty minutes early for the next month! After preliminary introductions and housekeeping, we began blocking the show. The staging process was faster than I had been used to, never having had only three weeks to put up an entire show (at school, rehearsal processes can last up to two months). This process, however, never felt too fast. Everyone zeroed in and listened closely so as not to miss anything, and we actually got the whole thing up on its feet in only two weeks with an entire week left for cleaning. To be quite honest, I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to the long drawn out rehearsal period of a school show. I so prefer the accelerated rate of rehearsing. It forces you to make bold decisions and stand by them. Quality work was coming forward in a shorter time with this new restriction. Once we started performing, a new challenge for me in Mamma Mia! was the number of performances ahead of us--a whopping 38! It was a blast and extremely easy to keep fresh for the first month, but after a while, it became slightly more difficult to revitalize each night. It was a good taste of what doing a full run of a professional show would feel like for years. I was given advice from Mark Price, who played our Harry, to make choices some nights that were just out there, in order to force myself to live in the moment and listen to the other actors on stage. It was fascinating and so wonderful to see all the actors at Theatre Aspen bring this show to life.

The other show I had the pleasure of working on this summer was the children’s musical, Dear Edwina. My god, was this show fun to work on! I was one of a six-person cast putting on this play about a girl whose sole purpose in life was to give a bit of good advice. I played Bobby Newsome, Edwina’s new next door neighbor, who is convinced to join Edwina’s crew of advice givers after moving to town from St. Louis. He’s reluctant at first, but decides to place his fears to the side when he sees how important the whole thing is to Edwina. Playing Bobby was a huge treat for me, because in many ways, it reminded me of how I felt when I first began performing. Theatre was a place for me where I was fully accepted and given permission to go as far in the direction of me as I wanted, just as Edwina accepted Bobby with open arms. This shy kid blossomed into a person he could have never imagined, and later would never be able to live without. This kid's shows got very deep! The true gift of working on this show, however, was getting the chance to work under the direction of Paige Price (Executive Artistic Director of Theatre Aspen). I don’t think I can recall a time that Paige said “no” in the rehearsal space. Anytime an idea was offered or a bold choice was made, Paige saw it though to the end, and really let it be realized before making a decision about whether or not it would work and tossing it. This mentality of “yes” made every actor in the room so comfortable, and nurtured an incredibly creative environment when building this power-packed hour-long show. Dear Edwina is a show that relies so heavily on the minds that are working on it and I will forever cherish the version of the show we all had a hand in creating. I will miss it dearly. Almost as much as I’ll miss Bacchus (the official "production assistant" golden retriever of TA!). I’m not usually an early riser, but I loved waking up early every weekend to perform that show.

The last project we all had a hand in creating was our Apprentice Showcase, [title of showcase]. Every year the entire apprentice class is responsible for putting up an hour and a half-long production that reflects where we all stand at this point in our artistic life.  This was a project that took hours of preparation, rehearsal, cleaning, collaboration, and listening, and was one of the most exciting and rewarding performance opportunities I have ever had. Our Musical Director Apprentice, Jeff Ball, ran all music rehearsals. Kyle Weiler, a performance apprentice, created all choreography. Apprentices headed all the production, stage management, lighting design, and sound design positions. It was up to us to create the entirety of the piece. At times tensions were high, and about an hour before the show we were all pooping our pants, but we realized we were surrounded by our company--some of the most generous artists--who all came to support us the night of the show. Who could be afraid surrounded by all that love? We all felt like we said what we needed to with the show. If anyone’s interested in seeing it, we are all given physical copies as parting gifts. Just hunt one of us down!

If someone asked me to share my favorite part about this summer, it would be the people I had the privilege of working with. I was working alongside some incredibly talented artists this summer, but that's not the big takeaway. Along with being incredibly talented, these people were incredibly kind, generous, and humble. They wouldn’t rattle off all their credits or make their importance known. They would treat me, a student with a year of school left without a credit to my name, the same way they would treat anyone else. We would go out together, swap stories and laugh until we’d forget what we were laughing about. The people I worked with at Theatre Aspen were decent humans first. I was talking to my mom about this whole experience and I told her “I was spoiled this summer.” I don’t know when I’ll have an experience that fit everything I could have hoped for as closely as the Theatre Aspen experience did. Thank you to everyone that made this possible. I hope to cross paths with you all many times over in the future.

Until then,